A powerful heroin-like drug that rots flesh and bone has made its first reported appearance in the United States, an Arizona health official says.
Known on the street as "krokodil," the caustic homemade opiate is made from over-the-counter codeine-based headache pills mixed with iodine, gasoline, paint thinner or alcohol. When it's injected, the concoction destroys a user's tissue, turning the skin scaly and green like a crocodile. Festering sores, abscesses and blood poisoning are common.
Frank LoVecchio, the co-medical director at the Banner Good Samaritan Poison & Drug Information Center, told KPHO-TV that Arizona health officials have seen two cases during the past week.
"As far as I know, these are the first cases in the United States that are reported," he said. "So we're extremely frightened."
LoVecchio did not say where in the state the patients were located or provide details about their conditions.
The drug — chemically called desomorphine — emerged around 2002 in Siberia and the Russian Far East but has swept across the country in just the past three years, according to a Time magazine investigation.
Krokodil became popular in Russia because heroin can be difficult to obtain and is expensive. Krokodil costs three times less, and the high is similar to heroin though much shorter, usually 90 minutes.